In October 2019, we launched our reforesting Scotland project to restore the Caledonian pinewoods of the Scottish Highlands. Since then, we have also planted trees along degraded river banks to restore riparian woodland habitat.
The reforesting Scotland project aims to restore a diversify of woodland types to Scotland, prioritising the pinewood and riparian woodland habitats. Scots pine and downy birch saplings, alongside a diversity of food-producing broadleaf trees, such as hazel and bird cherry, are being planted across the valley bottoms and hillsides, while alders, downy birch, willows and other important riparian tree species are being planted alongside degraded riverbanks.
Our project is launched to restore the Caledonian woodlands with the planting of 3,000 trees.
An additional 3,000 native trees are planted to restore the Caledonian pinewood.
To compliment the reforestation activities, two eagle nest platforms are built in the ancient pinewoods to support the breeding of golden and white-tailed eagles.
We planted an extra 6,505 native trees, including 505 aspen, to restore the pinewood and riparian habitats.
We planted another batch of trees, including a large batch of aspen trees, to restore riparian woodland habitat.
We plant Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), downy birch (Betula pubescens), juniper (Juniperus communis), hazel (Corylus avellana), holly (Ilex aquifolium), European crab apple (Malus sylvestris), common hawthorn (Cratageus monogyna), alder (Alnus glutinosa), bird cherry (Prunus padus), Elder (Sambucus nigra) and Wych elm (Ulmus glabra), eared willow (Salix aurita), grey willow (Salix cinerea), goat willow (Salix caprea) and aspen (Populus tremula).
Twinflower (Linnea borealis), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica), pine marten (Martes martes) and Atlantic salmon (Salmon salar) are all present in the area.
An Ancient Wilderness
Reversing centuries of ecological damage
Historically, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in a forest of majestic Scots pine and colourful broadleaf trees, home to a diversity of plants and animals. Today, the landscape is largely devoid of these unique woodlands and many of the species that once thrived here have been lost. Our aim is to undo some of this damage and restore the empty glens and rewild the Scottish Highlands to rich, biodiverse, wild woodlands.
What makes the pinewood ecosystem special?
The Scottish pinewoods are a globally unique habitat due to the absence of any other conifer tree, other than Scots pine, within the woodland. These woodlands support some of the UK’s rarest plant and animal species like the beautiful and delicate twinflower, the elusive wildcat and the impressive capercaillie. Restoring native woodlands in all their beautiful complexity will help return Scotland to wilder, richer state that a variety of species, including humans, can enjoy.
What makes the riparian woodland ecosystem special?
Riparian woodlands are rare in Scotland, with much of Scotland's riverbanks devoid of trees. These woodlands are important for stabilising the riverbanks, preventing soil erosion and reducing flooding. They also improve the health of the river by adding nutrients to the water in the form of leaf litter and invertebrates and creating shelter and shade for wildlife. This is vitally important for Scotland's fish species, particularly salmon and brown trout, which are threatened by the rising water temperatures brought on by climate change.
At the end of the last Ice Age, much of the Scottish Highlands were covered in woodland, mainly composed of Scots pine and birch. Around 4,000 years ago, the climate began to change. The natural tree line lowered, peat bogs expanded and woodland cover began to decline.
At around the same time, humans began to significantly change the landscape around them. Trees were felled to make room for crops and graze livestock, to harvest timber and fuelwood. By the 1700s, the great Caledonian Forest was reduced to small, isolated pockets of the Highlands. Much of the wildlife that thrived here, like lynx, bears and wolves, were lost.
In the 18th and 19th century, when much of the landscape had already been cleared of forests, estate owners began to clear the land of people. Known as the Highland Clearances, local people were forcibly evicted from their homes, entire villages were cleared, to make way for sheep grazing. Today, a combination of sheep farming, unsustainable numbers of deer and intensive land management for sporting purposes is restricting the ability of native woodlands to regenerate on their own. Reforestation with native species is therefore vital to restore this unique habitat.
the team behind the project
Hannah Kirkland, Conservation Biologist at Mossy Earth
Innes MacNeill, Reserve Manager at Alladale Wilderness Reserve
Planting Team at Alexander Forestry